Manager Jin said, “Mu Linger, you want to be cheap so badly? Fine, then follow me!”
So speaking, he turned and dragged her to his rooms. Mu Linger’s heart was beating so fast it threatened to burst out of her chest. She was completely in a muddle, unsure whether this was reality or a dream. She timidly watched Manager Jin lock up the door from the inside and approach her with a tyrannical air. Slowly, she began to back away and feel some fear. She realized just how frightening these terms with and began to regret it.
Abruptly, Manager Jin strode forward and took her hand. Before she could cry out, he tossed her onto the bed and was on top of her before she could react. Mu Linger’s expression turned ashen as she began to tremble uncontrollably. She narrowly avoided screaming that she regretted everything. But if Manager Jin really took this secret to Jun Yixie to negotiate, all of them would be screwed. She was the one who invited disaster--she couldn’t drag everyone else down with her!
Lying on the bed, she looked terror-stricken at Manager Jin and suddenly realized this man was a horrific stranger.
Meanwhile, Manager Jin didn’t move and simply stared back. She grew more and more flustered until she finally burst into tears. “M-Manager Jin, can we change terms?”
“Didn’t you already agree?” Manager Jin asked.
“I’m begging you…” Mu Linger’s tears streamed down her face.
Manager Jin suddenly struck out with his fist, hitting the bedcovers next to Mu Linger’s head. Furious, he raged, “If you were scared, why did you agree to me in the first place? Why did you agree?! Motherf**king--why can’t you cherish yourself more? How am I supposed to treasure you like this?!”
Mu Linger was stunned by his words! What did he say at the end? I...did I hear the wrong thing?
She looked at him with a mixture of fear and confusion and realized she neither knew nor understood him, much less what he wanted. Shrinking into a corner of the bed, she huddled into a ball and grew on guard. She only saw him as a beast that had gone mad. Manager Jin was dumbfounded as he looked at her and recognized the uncertainty in her eyes. Immediately, he turned away and both sides grew silent until the large room seemed devoid of all sound.
Finally, it was Manager Jin who broke the silence first. His voice was deeper than before. “You should just go.”
Mu Linger didn’t dare to move, so Manager Jin stood up and retreated to one side. Only then did she carefully climb off the bed and made a wide berth around him before running to the door. There, she stopped.
“About the pregnancy…”
“Owe me first!” Manager Jin snapped back. “And scram!”
Despite her fears, Mu Linger didn’t budge.
“Why aren’t you getting lost?” Manager Jin fumed.
Mu Linger still didn’t move, so Manager Jin turned to her and said, “I know how to be trustworthy. You better beat it!”
Mu Linger had no idea how she escaped back to her courtyard, but she didn’t dare to enter her rooms lest it woke up Ning Jing and exposed her unnatural state. She sat alone in a corner by the building, thinking back to how things had ended up like this. Gradually, she started to cry. She missed Qi gege and big sis both so, so much…
After Mu Linger left, Manager Jin simply sat on the bed in a daze until sunrise and the roaring of tigers outside brought him to his senses. The tigers at Tiger’s Prison roared three times a day at morning, noon, and night, as if warning them not to escape. Manager Jin washed his face with cold water before going out and flying to the roof. He carefully listened to their cries. For some reason, he seemed to find the sound familiar. He knew he’d never met tigers in his life before, much less hear their roars. This was his first contact with the so-called kings of the forest. From their roars, he felt no warning, but a sense of intimacy and relaxation. The more he listened, the more it soothed his heart to the disastrous events of last night.
For the next few days, Manager Jin didn’t see any sign of Mu Linger, nor did she go wandering around the gardens anymore. It was as if the night between them never happened at all, but both of them remembered the promise in their hearts.
Currently, Gu Qishao was hurrying towards Medicine City and had put all thoughts of Mu Linger to the back of his head. By contrast, Tang Li was the complete opposite. Ning Jing’s letter to him helped him control his rash impulses and wait patiently in Three-Way Black Market until spring came again. Besides helping East Origin Hall manage their affairs and the Tang Clan create weapons for the East Qin army, he spent all his time preparing the welcome back for Ning Jing and their unborn child. He hired a bunch of old maidservants, bought all sorts of clothes for Ning Jing and the baby, and even bought a thick, blank book. Everyday he’d find Gu Beiyue to ask him questions about childbirth and the one-month confinement period after the baby was born. As long as Gu Beiyue answered him, he’d dutifully record it in his book.
He even had Gu Beiyue make a long list of nurturing medicine to bolster Ning Jing’s health after the labor process. He had people go to Medicine City, Pill Fiend Pharmacy, or search all across Cloud Realm Continent to track down all the necessary ingredients. Otherwise, he went to the black markets himself to post reward offers for anyone who found them.
One night, Tang Li finished all his duties and saw Gu Beiyue still sitting in the courtyard. He quickly ran over and said, “Doctor Gu, recommend a few midwives and nurses to me. I’ll set them up at the Tang Clan first.”
Gu Beiyue would never laugh at Tang Li for preparing all these things so early, much less find him annoying. He knew that if Tang Li couldn’t busy himself someway, he’d be running off to Northern Li by now. As a doctor, he could treat both illnesses and matters of the heart, but not himself. Long Feiye had written to say they’d discovered the prescription for Returning Dragon Pill and would refine one soon, but didn’t mention anything about the pill furnace master extorting Han Yunxi.
Ever since knowing he’d regain his shadow arts one day, he had spent nights sitting alone in the courtyard, waiting with quiet anticipation.
“Alright, I’ll have Vice-Head Shen arrange a few for you when the time comes,” Gu Beiyue agreed easily.
Tang Li was thrilled. “Many thanks, many thanks!”
“It’s no matter,” Gu Beiyue deferred.
Tang Li sat down by his side with a grin. “Doctor Gu, you know so much that you’ll make your future wife a lucky woman.”
Gu Beiyue startled before he smiled back without a word.
“Doctor Gu, you’re not young either. When are you planning to get married? Any girl that takes your fancy?” Tang Li asked next.
Gu Beiyue continued to smile wordlessly.
Tang Li grew serious. “Doctor Gu, you’re the only heir left of the Shadow Clan. You’ll have to hurry up and grow new shoots.”
Finally, Gu Beiyue’s smile faded. Still, he only nodded mutely. Tang Li didn’t notice anything amiss as he recalled something else and pressed, “Doctor Gu, if Ning Jing gas a girl, we’ll call her Tang Jing; if it’s a boy, then he’ll be Tang Ning? What do you think?”
Were all expectant fathers like this? So happy with no end of topics to talk about? Gu Beiyue smiled faintly and said, “Tang Ning’s not bad, but Tang Jing’s name overlaps with Ning Jing’s, which is improper.”
Realizing this himself, Tang Li knitted his brows and muttered, “Then I’ll have to think of other options.”
“Have the boy be called Tang Ning. If it’s a girl, let Ning Jing name her,” Gu Beiyue said before adding, “Leave some things for her to worry about.”
Tang Li smiled rather abashedly as he rubbed his nose and rose to his feet. “Doctor Gu, it’s getting late. You should rest early!”
Gu Beiyue sent Tang Li off before returning to his seat. He looked up at the crescent moon in the skies and showed a rare expression of melancholy. Naturally, he was disconsolate about his talk with Tang Li. As the only heir to the Shadow Clan, he couldn’t let the bloodline die out! No one else on this continent was more saddened by the issue of a male heir except for none other than Tianan Country’s sovereign, Long Tianmo.
Not long after civil war broke out in Northern Li, Western Zhou’s Emperor Kangcheng sent Princess Duanmu Jin to Tianan for a wedding alliance. Tianan already had its own empress, and Duanmu Jin wasn’t even born from the first wife. According to tradition, it was exceptional that she had been made a noble consort at all. But who knew that Long Tianmo raised her a level beyond that to Imperial Noble Consort (皇贵妃), second to only the empress herself and her assistant in ruling over the royal harem.
If Tianan’s court was like the past, which consisted of Mu Liuyue, the empress dowager, and great empress dowager, then they would be a force to be reckoned with. At most, Mu Liuyue would be stuck fighting one-on-one battles against Duanmu Jin. But the empress dowager was already insane and never left her palace gates, while the great-empress dowager was too advanced in years to bother with harem business. Furthermore, Long Tianmo selected 30 new concubines from his concubine selecting ceremony.
Four were raised to Noble Consort (贵妃) with four more Consorts (妃子) below them. Following that were the six Imperial Concubines (嫔妃), six Noble Ladies (贵人), five First-Class Female Attendants (常在), and five Second-Class Female Attendants (答应) to fill out the harem.
Amongst the populace, there were even jokes that the emperor had to build up another palace for his harem before holding the concubine selection. It was much livelier there now, with various court factions coming to life as well. Mu Liuyue and Duanmu Jin’s first faceoff wouldn’t be simple. They hadn’t even met face to face, but the harem was already in an uproar.
Long Tianmo might have picked all those concubines, but he had never spent the night at any of their quarters, much less summon them to serve him. For the sake of avoiding the mama sent by his grandmother, he had lived in the imperial study for the past ten days. Despite this, Great General Mu visited him daily. Tonight, the two of them were discussing the Northern Li civil war and the alliance between East and West Qin. The general had no plans to withdraw, but simply fell on one knee to a bow.
Seeing this, Long Tianmo felt a headache coming on. Great General Mu was a smart man who had never cried injustice on behalf on his daughter or asked for sympathy. He always used the excuse of expanding the imperial family’s roots to urge Long Tianmo to spend his nights in the harem and spread the “rain and dew.”
Long Tianmo stood in front of his study desk and ignored him, preferring to look coldly at Mu Qingwu on the sidelines instead. The young general immediately dropped his head. He was in a tough spot too!
“Your Majesty, the late emperor at your age already--”
Before Great General Mu could finished his repeated entreaty, a eunuch announced from outside, “Your Majesty, the Imperial Noble Consort was bitten by a venomous snake!”
1. For the curious, the concubine system here follows that of the Qing Dynasty, but the actual PGC story (and its costumes/dress/hairstyles) emulates that of earlier Chinese dynasties.
I can't believe it's almost December. Expect some nice Xmas-themed kpop and stuff for the music player when the time comes! <3 <3 Just finished my Xmas shopping for friends and family yesterday (as well as a ton of work), can't wait to find some nice awesome wrapping paper for their stuff next. There's something amazingly therapeutic about well-wrapped boxes.
Oh, before I forget, here's the lineup for our current playlist: